Athens 2004 - 500 drachma coins

On November 11, 2000 Lucas Papadimou -governor of the Greek Central Bank- presented a series of 500 drachma coins created in honour of the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad in Athens. The obverse of the coins features the Athens 2004 Olympic Games logo, a stylised olive wreath, while the reverse -which is different on each coin- features a variety of Olympic themes and figures. The series is composed of six different coins, three of which were realeased for circulation immediately, while another three followed suit on December 15, 2000. Not only are these the first coins commemorating the "Athens 2004" Olympic Games, but are also the last coins ever to be minted by the Greek Central Bank before the country entered the euro zone on January 1, 2002. As a consequece, the 500 drachma coins bear a twofold significance, being the last coins with a face value expressed in drachmas, the national currency of Hellas (Greece), and at the same time the first "Athens 2004" coins.

A total of 24 million coins have been struck, namely 4 million coins for each design. At first glance, the mintage seems to be adequate as the total population of Hellas bearly exceeds 10 million people. It should also be noted that -for instance- the Greek Central Bank issues only 4 million pieces of the 100 drachma coin every two years in order to satisfy domestic demand. However, taking into account the increased demand for these coins by domestic and from around the world coin collectors, it is pretty doubtful that the majority of the population will ever get to see them in circulation.

Coin design and specifications

The modern Olympic Games is an international sports competition, held every four years at a different site. There are two types of Olympics, the Summer Olympics and the Winter Olympics. The modern Olympic Games began in Athens, Greece, in 1896, and the program for the Games included only summer events (the Winter Olympics were not established until 1924), in which about 300 athletes from fewer than 15 countries participated. The common side of the coin displays the denomination (500 drachmas), the sign of the Olympic Games (the five rings), the Athens 2004 Olympic Games logo (an Olive Wreath within a square) and in a semi-circle the inscription "Hellenic Republic".

Reverse of Greek 500 drachmas Athens 2004 coin
Diameter 28.5 mm
Thickness 1.98 (+/- 0.01) mm
Weight 9.54 gr
Composition 75% copper - 25% nickel
Shape Round
Edge Smooth
Engraver Nikiforos Lytras

Design critique

Because of the twofold significance of these coins, collectors had high expectations in terms of design, alloys and overall craftsmanship of the coins. Unfortunately, the six commemorative coins presented by the Bank of Greece fell sort of these expectations. Although the themes portrayed on the coins have been carefully selected combining both, beauty and historical significance, the overall design of the coins suffers, as the details are not very sharp and the quality of the minting is mediocre. It seems the height of the coins is too small to accurately depict the fine details, so in many cases it is hard to get a clear picture of the theme portrayed.

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